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From Under Iron to Ironwoman

Laurie Digges found herself on the ground watching the underside of a Toyota Camry come to rest above her.

Digges had been cycling with two friends, training for a 100-mile race. As the riders waited at a red light in Columbia, the Camry crashed into an SUV beside them and ricocheted into Digges and friend Julia Norregaard. Digges was forced under the car, which nearly crushed her head.

The accident shattered her cheek bone, sliced her ear and scraped her face. She had road rash down her right side. Her right fibula was shattered, and the lateral knee ligaments in her right knee were damaged.

An ambulance rushed Digges to University Hospital, where a team of doctors evaluated her injuries. Dr. James Stannard, chair of the department of orthopaedic surgery, cleaned her leg wound and repaired the fracture. To prevent infection, he removed pieces of bone that had lost blood supply. During her hospital stay, so many doctors and nurses checked on her that she was convinced she was receiving special treatment.

Dr. James Stannard, MD

James Stannard, MD

Stannard says Digges was a dream patient. “The mental aspects of recovering from trauma are big,” Stannard says. “Seventy percent [of trauma patients] suffer some depression. The people who handle it well get a goal and get the attitude, ‘I’m going to overcome this.’ ”

Digges got a goal.

Flash forward one year. Digges finds herself on a long straightaway in Whistler, British Columbia. Her body is hurting, exhausted.

But she is elated.

Digges is at the end of a 26.2-mile run that came after a 112-mile bike ride that came after a 2.4-mile swim, all of which make up Ironman Canada. Yet her steps feel lighter than they have all day.

Friend Mackenzie Rickman, who had spent the past five months pushing and training Digges, is running beside her. After more than 14 hours of competition, day has turned to night, but thousands of spectators still line the home stretch, which is lit by huge light stands — a literal light at the end of the tunnel.

During her final footfalls, Digges’ thoughts return to her dark moments after the accident. Alone at home with her pain pills, she wondered, Why me? What am I supposed to do?

She isn’t wondering anymore.

Source: This article first appeared in the Mizzou Health News magazine.

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